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Three and Out–Williams, Springs, Marshall

Jan 4, 2006, 8:17 AM EST

Gregg Williams—Joe Gibbs, like all coaches, hates distractions and the potential departure of Williams could have turned into a huge one. The Houston Texans had already requested an interview with him for their vacant coaching position and, certainly, more calls would be coming soon. The three-year, $8 million contract is really a one-year deal as it doesn’t prevent Williams from seeking a head job in 2007, but it is as good a deal ass one could expect under the circumstances. The $2.7 million he’ll make next season is as much as he would have been paid as the head coach for at least half of the teams in the market for a new head coach. But all indications are that it’s not all about money. Williams likes his situation here. He has excellent relationships with both Gibbs and with Dan Snyder and he is reluctant to move his family again. And, although it’s likely that he’ll take the plunge again in the future, he didn’t really like the non-football aspects of being a head coach. Another year off from that will do him good.

Shawn Springs—Although he’ll probably be officially listed as questionable, it seems extremely unlikely that Springs’ groin injury will have healed sufficiently for him to be able to play on Saturday. That’s not good for the Redskins, but it’s hardly disastrous. For one thing, Carlos Rogers is likely to return to the lineup after missing three games with a torn bicep muscle, so he and Walt Harris will be starting. Also, you just have to learn to live with and adjust to injuries this time of year. Nobody is going to take it easy on you because your starting cornerback is out. If Dimitri Patterson and Christian Morton have to be out on an island at crunch time next Saturday, so be it. They’ll just have to step up and make plays like Aki Jones and Demetric Evans have done on the line this year and like Lemar Marshall and Chris Clemons did at linebacker last year.

Lemar Marshall—The offseason loss of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce to free agency was supposed to be a devastating blow for the Washington defense. Not. Marshall was one of a few potential solutions that were to be tried in training camp, but he found himself at the top of the depth chart posted on the eve of training camp and he has given the coaches no reason to remove his name from there. It didn’t take long for the move to pay off. In the first game of the season, the Bears trailed by two late in the third quarter and they had driven to the Washington 22. On first down Kyle Orton’s pass was deflected by Warrick Holdman and Marshall gathered it in a yard deep in the end zone. The threat was over and the Redskins held on to win. Marshall’s huge interception on Sunday provided a nice bookend to his season. The fact that he led the team in interceptions with four is more of an indictment of the inability of the defensive backs to get their hands on very many passes and to hold on to the ones that they did get near, but it’s still a nice accomplishment for a middle linebacker.

  1. Kounter Trey - Jan 4, 2006 at 12:17 PM

    Pierce, Marshall–who will be the next Gregg Williams reclaimation project? It no longer surprises me to see solid if unspectacular players blossom under this system.

    Last year the story was that a group of castoffs somehow melded to form the NFL’s No. 3 defense. This year the story is that the Skins’ very good defensive players had another very good year. But they’re essentially the same guys as last year. The same players rejected by other teams, jelling as a group under Williams’ tutelage.

    The term ‘genius’ gets thrown around a lot when discussing coaches, but I’m convinced this is one time it’s really warranted.

    Very glad he signed on for another season.

  2. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2006 at 3:39 PM

    Greg Williams is definitely a defensive guru, but this idea that he’s a genius such that he can plug anybody into any position in his system and get the same results is not, I think, accurate. I don’t have the exact stats for this, and maybe Rich could comment, but it seemed pretty clear to me that when Cornelius Griffin and/or Sean Taylor were out during the middle stretch of the season, the defense suffered markedly. I think his defense requires a few key all-pro level players at critical positions around which he is able to plug in the over-achiever type role players who can fill in the gaps. Griffin can stop the run, and draw double-coverage on the pass rush thus making it easier for blitzing teammates. Taylor has tremendous speed and athleticism such that he can help with coverage when the corners or linebackers are blitzing, and he also provides punishing run support. These players seem to be absolutely critical to his defensive system such that they can’t be easily replaced. They probably couldn’t even be easily replaced even though off-season free agency. If Taylor is convicted next month in his trial down in FL, it could be a significant blow to the success of the Redskins’ defense next year.

  3. Joe - Jan 4, 2006 at 7:14 PM

    Williams is a good coach who gets the most out of his players. A genius, he is not.

    I agree that the defense suffered when Griffen was out. That stretch also coincided with Arrington’s inexplicable ride on the pine.

    Williams is a very good defensive coordinator and we’re fortunate to have him. Judging by his sorry teams in Buffalo, I’d say he’s probably a better X’s and O’s guy than he is motivator. I believe Joe Gibbs is the reason this team overachieves.

  4. Kounter Trey - Jan 4, 2006 at 7:26 PM

    Well, obviously you’re not going to wind up with the no. 3 defense without a few upper-echelon players. The fact remains that Williams did have tremendous success with, first, Pierce, and now Marshall. I don’t remember them being players other teams were clamoring for previously.

    I don’t think the Arrington thing is ‘inexplicable’–even he has admitted that he doesn’t fully have his wheels back and I’ve read enough quotes from LaVar and other players to support the notion that he was too undisciplined to work within the defense.

  5. Muccman - Jan 4, 2006 at 8:32 PM

    Well with all this talk about whether Gregg Williams is justified as a defensive genius- if he isn’t, then who is? Monte Kiffin? Marvin Lewis? Lovie Smith?

    Personally, in my opinion, if he isn’t he’s at the least very close to one and all I can say is that I’m thrilled he decided to ink a brand new three year deal with the skins.

  6. Anonymous - Jan 5, 2006 at 3:48 PM

    I guess that it all depends on what one means by the word “genius.” There’s no question that he’s one of the elite defensive coaches in the league and that the Redskins are very fortunate to have him. But I think where the controversy comes in is when people attempt to claim that Williams is such a genius that his system can succeed with any group of players. I don’t think this is true. That middle stretch of the season when Griffin and Taylor were hurt, our defense was getting burned over and over again, giving up multiple 4th quarter leads to lose games. Lemar Marshal and Antonio Brown both benefited greatly by having Griffin draw double-teams. That’s not to say that they aren’t good linebackers, but take away Griffin, and their production drops significantly. Griffin is that good. Without Griffin and Taylor, our defense would be ranked in the middle of the pack at best – not exactly the stuff of “genius.” If you look up our defensive team stats for any game in which Griffin and/or Taylor are out, I’d bet anything our rank drops drastically.

  7. Kounter Trey - Jan 5, 2006 at 6:46 PM

    I see your point, Anonymous. I think you’re creating a *bit* of a straw man–I’m not sure anybody’s claiming Williams can take any 11 guys off the street and turn them into a top-notch defense–but yeah, even Williams himself is quick to point out that he looks much better when Griffin’s out there.

    However, the success he had with Pierce and now Marshall–and, really, a group that early last year was considered no great shakes–is impressive, and suggests a trend.

    I think he’s gotten this group to play well over its head, overall. But, sure, Griffin’s head was already pretty high up there to begin with.

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